Report on the Boğaziçi Resistance Lawsuits

Sevgi Yakın

*This report is written for European Association of Lawyers for Democracy & World Human  Rights (ELDH) during the Freedom House’s Fellowship Program for Emerging Civil Society  Leaders in Turkey and as a part of Civic Space Studies Association’s Advancing Fundamental  Freedoms in Turkey project.


On January 1, 2021, with a decree published at midnight, President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip  Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu as the new rector of Boğaziçi University. Melih Bulu was a  politician who had ties with the AKP and was the rector of Haliç University. The students, the  academic staff, and the alumni of the Boğaziçi University saw this top-down appointment as a  violation of academic autonomy and as a way to control academic freedom.  

This was not a singular situation. The power to appoint university rectors has been given to  the president by the constitution of the Republic of Turkey. However, prior to 2016, the  president had to appoint one of the three candidates presented to them by the higher education  board from among the six candidates who received the highest number of votes in the  university rectorate elections. Following the coup d’état attempt in 2016, during the state of  emergency, the president was given the power to directly appoint rectors via a decree with the  power of law. As such, Erdoğan had been appointing rectors to universities since 2016.